SNP backbencher disagrees with retrospective pardons for gay men

John Mason, the SNP MP for Glasgow East.
John Mason, the SNP MP for Glasgow East.
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SNP backbencher John Mason said he did not agree with “retrospective pardons and apologies” just days after Holyrood unanimously agreed to a Bill to give automatic pardons to gay men.

Green co-convener Patrick Harvie launched a fierce attack on the Glasgow Shettleston MSP, blasting his “flippant tone” and “complete absence” of understanding in an email on the matter.

READ MORE: MSPs to pass law giving pardons for historical gay convictions

As the Scottish Parliament debated legislation that will give automatic pardons to gay men convicted under historical discriminatory legislation, the Glasgow MSP Mr Harvie told how he had been contacted by a constituent who had received an email from Mr Mason about the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Bill.

He said Mr Mason had wrote: “I’m not really sure I agree with retrospective pardons and apologies.

“I do not see that we can go round pardoning and apologising for everything that other people did that does not conform to modern customs.”

The SNP MSP went on to add: “Will the Italians be apologising for the Roman occupation?”

Mr Harvie said: “Where to begin with this? Is it the flippant tone, is it the complete absence of any attempt to show understanding of the arguments in favour of this Bill, or the reference to ancient history?

“This is not ancient history. This is living history.

“Many of the people whose lives were subject to untold harm by their own government are still living and they do not deserved to be dismissed in this way.”

Mr Harvie condemned Mr Mason for his “cowardice in sitting here quietly assenting to something he didn’t believe in and then sending this email to someone he knew would share his views”.

The Green MSP added: “I’m not naive enough to think that John Mason is the only MSP who holds such views and I can only single him out on this issue because I happened to be sent this email.”

Mr Harvie questioned how someone with those views could be selected to stand for parliament.

Mr Mason has been an MSP since 2011.

He was the MP for Glasgow East between 2008 and 2010. Prior to that, he was an SNP councillor in Glasgow from 1998 to 2008.

Mr Harvie said: “Political parties whose leaders oppose racism would be condemned and rightly so for continuing to select racist candidates for election at any level.

“Political parties who leaders oppose sectarianism would be condemned and rightly so for continuing to select candidates for election at any level who were sectarian.

“In the same way political parties whose leaders oppose prejudice and discrimination on grounds of sexuality and gender identity should be condemned for continuing to select homophobic, biphobic or transphobic candidates for election at any level.”

In an intervention, Mr Mason stressed that “tolerance is an important virtue”.

He told Mr Harvie that in traditional faith communities there is a belief that “it is wrong for one person of the same sex to have a sexual relationship with someone else”.

Mr Mason insisted: “That is a genuinely held belief by a range of people.

“Some people believe that it is only within marriage that people should have sexual relationships.”